Ontario Solar Subsidy is "Perverse": Environment Commissioner

Environmental Commissioner criticizes ignorance of green heat from renewable energy.

The microFIT program in Ontario has created "a perverse incentive that represents a key barrier to reducing GHGs from buildings" because it provides financial incentives for solar photovoltaic electricity generation "to the exclusion of solar thermal systems" for heating water.


The provincial government should amend its solar PV tariff so it does not compete with the "financial and GHG reduction benefits" of solar thermal installations, explains Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller in his annual report to the Legislative Assembly. The overwhelming majority of buildings in Ontario use natural gas to heat water and the opportunity to reduce these emissions is being lost, he explains in his report, Failing our Future: 2013 Review of the Ontario Government's Climate Change Action Plan.'

Buildings emit 31.7 Mt of GHG and represent the third largest source after transportation and industry, and well ahead of the 14.8 Mt of emissions from electricity generation.

"Over the past several years there has been a lack of bold leadership on climate change mitigation policy in Ontario" and, while growth in emissions is easing, they are still projected to increase to 190 Mt by 2030 due in part to an increased reliance on natural gas-fired generation in the electricity sector. The Commissioner wants the province to assess the ability of pricing signals, demand response, energy storage, and combined heat and power systems to shift electricity usage away from carbon-intensive peaking generation, and estimate the contribution this could make to meeting Ontario's GHG targets.

The province's continued predicted growth in GHG emissions "is hard to reconcile with the government's goal to reduce emissions to 150 Mt by 2020 and to 35 Mt by 2050" and "much more needs to be done to close this gap." Ontario's electricity sector has been significantly decarbonized, "representing an excellent source of low-carbon electricity to reduce emissions in other sectors such as transportation."
In 2002, the canadian association for renewable energies (we c.a.r.e.) formed the Green Heat Partnership to promote the use of renewable energy technologies for space conditioning. These green technologies could reduce more GHG emissions than all coal-fired generation in the country, and their potential contribution is more salient in light of efforts to close coal-fired generating facilities.

Solar is a cost-effective technology for heating water or space, while geothermal and biothermal are dispatchable sources of heating; geothermal (earth energy) pumps also provide 100% of cooling load in residential and commercial buildings.

For more information on reducing GHG emissions and operating costs from Green Heat options, go to http://GreenHeat.org.

For the Environmental Commissioner's report, go to http://www.eco.on.ca/uploads/Reports-GHG/2013/2013GHG.pdf

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